CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge refused Wednesday to throw out a former New Jersey police chief’s conviction of lying to the FBI and said he would not rule out imposing an above-guideline sentence that would send him to prison.
Frank Nucera, who served in Bordentown Township, was convicted of the count in October by a jury that also deadlocked on two more serious charges — hate crime assault and deprivation of civil rights under color of law. Those counts stem from an episode in which Nucera, who is white, allegedly slammed a handcuffed black man’s head into a doorjamb.
Federal prosecutors plan to retry Nucera on those charges, and jury selection for that trial is scheduled to start March 16, six days after Nucera is scheduled to be sentenced on the charge of lying to the FBI.
Nucera’s attorney, Rocco Cipparone, wanted the conviction thrown out, claiming the jury proceedings in the first trial were tainted by racial bias. The jury was composed of three black women and nine white people, and Cipparone claimed some jurors, particularly the black women, were unfair to Nucera, subjecting him to “anti-police” bias.
Prosecutors, though, said the black jurors sharing their experiences, or viewing the evidence differently than white jurors, reflected the reality that “African Americans frequently have very different life experiences than their white counterparts due to the long history of racial discrimination in the United States.”
U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler rejected Cipparone’s motion after a hearing that lasted for nearly two hours.
“Given the nature of the charges in this case, given the nature of the evidence, nobody should be surprised that the discussions of the jury focused on race,” Kugler said, according to NJ.com. “That’s what this case has been about, and it will continue to be about, is race.”
People convicted of lying to the FBI usually face a sentence of probation or up to six months, Cipparone said, and would not usually include prison time. Prosecutors may move for a longer sentence, and Kugler said he would consider that, citing Nucera’s position as a police chief and a need to deter future offenses.